More on the Technology Impact Essay

The syllabus asks students to work in small groups to produce a web-based illustrated essay on the impact of some technology. In many ways, this activity makes some of the demands made in Indivual and Group Projects.

By "impact," I mean something less far-ranging than the "humanistic implications" of the Individual Project. The internal combustion engine certainly enabled the development of automobiles which in turn, in America, led to the suburb which in turn led to economic disparities and racial divisions between the cities and the suburbs with attendant implicatons for, among other things, public education. In an American context, it would be fair to say that an impact of the internal combustion engine was the diminution of the consequences of physical separation (for example, in shipping, in tourism, in the separation of work and residence, and so on). However, the humanistic implications go further. Where good and inexpensive public transportation exists, the implications of separating work from residence are quite different than where such public transportation doesn't exist. Good public transportation might be provided by electric engines (as in subways, light rail, and trolleys) so that internal combustion engines, which make the car (as well as the bus) economical, need not have the implications of American suburban culture.By "impact," I mean something quite likely and, in a sense, easy to track; by "implication," I mean the further pursuit of the impact as it ramifies through the realities of culture.

By "illustrated essay" I mean non-fiction that includes text and images.

By "web-based" I mean that instead of producing this on paper it would be uploaded for view on the web.

Here are some of the goals of this activity:
* Think deeply about a technology
* Gain experience with the folks in our class in structured collaboration
* Accomplish a comparatively simple use of the web
* Consider the rhetorical (including design) issues in producing a unified work for a specified audience&purpose
* Feel the strengths and limitations of working with certain affordances and constraints on the types of communication tools available
* Experience usability testing

The next-to-last goal in the list above is achieved in part by not allowing any web-based possibilities except the inclusion of text and graphics. In other words, your product should be one scrollable page. You are not to use hyperlinks, animations, sound, and so on. That will come when we get into Flash.

The last goal in the list above is achieved in part by presenting your work in lab and seeing how the rest of us react to it, think about its virtues, problems, and possibilities both in form (how it is made) and content (what it conveys). (Yes, I know the form/content distinction is, at bottom, specious, but its heuristic value is time-tested, so I exploit it even while recognizing that one must be careful.)

Copyright © 2011 Eric S. Rabkin
This page was last updated on Monday, 26-Sep-2011 12:57:29 EDT.